My little road trip

Never one for knocking back a chance to travel – especially through the beautiful Welsh countryside – I jumped at the opportunity to go to Derby recently for the One-Day Welsh School organised by the Derby Welsh Learners Circle. I was armed with a load of flyers for the new Amikumu app and the weather was stunning – Welsh autumn at its best – so I decided to make it a leisurely drive, calling in at libraries on the way.

I was a tad late leaving so Llanidloes Library had closed by the time I got there, but I carried on to Y Drenewydd (Newtown) and Y Trallwng (Welshpool). The librarians were very interested in the app and happy to receive flyers to promote it.

It was great to see the enthusiasm amongst the Welsh learners in Derby. They had come from Birmingham and Nottingham to spend the day learning and conversing in Welsh. There were enough for three separate levels – beginners, intermediate, and experienced (including some first-language Welsh speakers) – so something suitable for everyone. I had some nice surprises too – one participant was someone I knew from a recent SSiW bootcamp, and another was someone who had won a prize in this year’s Online Eisteddfod. I enjoyed chatting with a Japanese man who lives in Birmingham but loves Wales and hopes to live here in the future. (I didn’t miss the chance to practise a little Japanese with him as well, of course!)

I distributed the Amikumu flyers there and answered some questions about the app, before heading off down to Bae Caerdydd (Cardiff Bay) to stay a few nights with friends.

On the Sunday I headed into the city centre to meet up with Heather, the coordinator of the Cardiff Esperanto Group. I hadn’t seen her for quite some time so it was great to sit in Wally’s Kaffeehaus and catch up on all the recent events in the Esperanto world. Heather was one of the participants in a recent S4C item about Esperanto in Wales, which you can watch here on YouTube.

The next day the weather was absolutely stunning – cold, but sunny with a beautiful blue sky. I had arranged to meet up with a friend in Pontcanna but I was a little early, so I spent half an hour walking in Pontcanna Fields and really enjoying being out in the autumn sunshine. After spending a couple of hours catching up with my friend – all in Welsh of course – I walked back through Treganna (Canton) where I used to live towards the city centre. The water was like glass as I crossed the bridge over the River Taf, so I stopped to take a photo, which you can see above. A voice behind me said, ‘Shwmae Dee’, and it was another SSiW bootcamper that I’d arranged to have lunch with in the Hen Lyfrgell – the Welsh Centre in the old library building.

We walked there together, chatting in Welsh the whole time, and enjoyed our lunch, though more than just a bit disappointed to find that neither the staff member who greeted us at the door, nor the staff member who took our order could speak Welsh. The music playing in the background was not even from Wales, including Santana and Jimi Hendrix amongst others. Apart from a big poster saying ‘Shwmae’ on the wall, and bilingual menus (which were no use to order as the staff member couldn’t understand what I wanted and had to turn it to the English side), there was no other indication that it was any different to any other café in the city.

Still, we found a little Welsh conversation group going on in the corner and joined that after our meal. I handed out a few more Amikumu flyers, including a few to a retired Welsh tutor who still meets up with learners to help them. Apparently he goes to the Hen Lyfrgell every Monday and Friday around 1pm to give some conversation practice to learners who work in the city. Chwarae teg iddo fe!

The Central Library staff in Caerdydd were happy to have Amikumu flyers, showing me three different places they could put them on the Language and Literature floor. Hopefully they’ll be of use to people there.

Tuesday was Casnewydd (Newport) and Caerllion (Caerleon) day. I walked to the station and caught the train to Casnewydd where I was met by another SSiWer (and bootcamper), James. He is currently developing a website to show people where they can go to practise their Welsh, so that’s something to look forward to.

With James, I went to the Hanbury Arms Pub in Caerllion to meet a group of Welsh speakers. Apparently there has been a group meeting there every week for over 20 years! Amazing! I showed them the Amikumu flyers and one took an immediate interest in the Esperanto that is visible on the English language side of the flyer. It turned out that he used to be a Latin teacher many years ago. He asked questions about the pronunciation, tried out saying a few sentences, and asked me how to say other things in Esperanto. I suggested he use Duolingo to learn it, and the others said they wouldn’t be surprised if he did!

Next stop was back in Casnewydd to meet up with Mair from Stwff. After speaking with her at the National Eisteddfod back in August, she had offered to provide a prize for every winner in the SSiW Online Eisteddfod, so I met her to collect them. I can’t say what they are just yet as the winners haven’t received them, but as soon as I can announce that, there will be another post.

Wednesday was SSiW Stand day with Anthony and Ann in the Llandough Hospital. Anthony had obtained permission to have a stand there promoting SSiW so I took our popup banner along, as well as a few Welsh magazines and a pile of Amikumu flyers to make it more interesting. We were there for several hours and there was quite a lot of interest in learning Welsh amongst the staff. They were busy and couldn’t talk for long, of course, but it was encouraging how many of them said, “Oh I’ve always wanted to learn Welsh” and were pleased when we explained that they didn’t need to attend a class but could use SSiW to learn in their own time.

After farewelling Anthony, I was ready to head down to Y Barri (Barry) to relax with some more friends, but not before distributing a few more flyers in Chapter Arts Centre, Treganna (Canton) Library, Penarth Library and Wenvoe Library.

In the morning it was time to set out for home, but I called in to Abertawe (Swansea) on the way. First stop was Tŷ Tawe, where I explained about Amikumu to a representative of Menter Iaith Abertawe. He was interested to hear that Esperanto is gaining in popularity and asked me to send the flyer as an electronic version so it can be sent out with their weekly email. I had the same request from the Central Library, as they display material on large screens and they said they could promote it throughout the library like that.

Finally, I was back home at Nyth y Kiwi, Llandysul – tired, but really exhilarated after my little road trip. I used to wonder if I would ever get tired of travelling, but I don’t wonder any more. The answer is definitely NO.

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